After the death of a loved one, it can seem impossible to know where to start with planning the funeral, registering the death, handling the estate, and finding time to grieve. Therefore, arranging compassionate leave from your job will allow you to take time to focus on the tasks ahead and process the loss of your loved one without any added pressure. In this article, we are going to explore all you need to know about compassionate leave in the UK and what your rights are.

What is compassionate leave?

Compassionate or bereavement leave is time employees are granted off work by their employers for a death of a loved one. This time allows them to grieve, make arrangements, and attend a funeral or celebration of life ceremony.

Compassionate leave is usually granted for the death of immediate family. However, depending on the employer’s policy and your responsibilities, compassionate leave can be granted for the death of relatives or friends.

office work compassionate leave

What Are the Laws on Compassionate Leave in the UK?

The UK laws on compassionate and bereavement leave are limited. The Employment Rights Act 1996 states employees are allowed a “reasonable” amount of time off to deal with emergency matters such as a death of a loved one. There are currently no laws in the UK obliging employers to grant leave entitlement for the death of a loved one, however many businesses do.

Although there are no strict laws in place for employers to grant compassionate leave, there is a law for parents who lose a child under the age of 18 or suffer a stillbirth from 24 weeks of pregnancy. In this case, the employer must legally give the employee two weeks’ leave under the Parental Bereavement Leave and Pay Act.

How many days are you entitled to for bereavement leave?

There are no set laws on the amount of time that can be taken for compassionate leave, unless you fall under the previously mentioned Parental Bereavement act. However, states it should be a “reasonable amount”. The average length of time offered in the UK is five working days. However, if resources allow for it, many businesses choose to offer a longer period of paid compassionate leave if required or requested. You would need to have a look at your company’s policies and your contract of employment for full details.

employees comforting a bereaved colleague

Do you get paid for compassionate leave?

As mentioned previously, compassionate leave does not legally have to be offered by companies. For this reason, it does not legally need to be paid.

However, A survey of 1,006 HR professionals and decision-makers, conducted by YouGov for the CIPD, revealed that 75% of employers who allow compassionate leave, also offer pay. This study also found that 80% of employers already provide paid bereavement leave for close family members, even though there is no statutory obligation for them to do so.

Can an employer refuse bereavement leave?

Due to there being no statutory entitlement for bereavement leave, employers can refuse leave, but this is rare. If time has been requested off with enough notice as possible, it will be granted; and in the case it is not, you may take time off under your annual leave or unpaid leave. The only time employers are required to grant compassionate leave is in the case of a parent losing a child under the requirements of the Parental Bereavement Leave and Pay Act.

compassionate leave notice


  • Compassionate or bereavement leave allows you to take time off work if you have recently lost an immediate family member or a child.
  • Compassionate leave can also be granted for people who have lost a friend or distant relative, depending on if the company’s own policies allow you to do so.
  • Your entitlement to time off and whether or not you will be paid will depend on your contract and company’s policy. In the case of a parent losing a child under 18 or suffer a stillbirth after 24 weeks of pregnancy, two weeks is legally required to be given as paid leave.
  • You should write a formal letter to request compassionate leave, stating what has happened, how long you need away from work, and when you expect to return.

Compassionate and bereavement leave in the UK: Need further advice?

We hope this gives you some insight into your rights regarding compassionate or bereavement leave after the death of a loved one. But if you need any further advice on this topic, or are looking to arrange a direct cremation, get in touch with our expert team today.

Our simple, fully inclusive pre-paid funeral plan starts at £1,450 and is guaranteed at today’s price. We also offer flexible payment terms up to 5 years, so you can protect your family financially with a more affordable way to pay. We’re available 24/7, whenever you need us and more than happy to help.

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